Bloomberg notices solar now cheaper than all other forms of energy

What Jon Wellinghoff predicted a year ago is starting to filter 300x199 Solar prices dropped below all other energy sources, in Georgia solar breakeven, by John S. Quarterman, 30 November 2014 into the news media: solar is going to win, and very quickly. Welcome to a sunny world!

Tom Randall, Bloomberg, 29 October 2014, While You Were Getting Worked Up Over Oil Prices, This Just Happened to Solar,

After years of struggling against cheap natural gas prices and variable subsidies, solar electricity is on track to be as cheap or cheaper than average electricity-bill prices in 47 U.S. states — in 2016, according to a Deutsche Bank report published this week. That’s assuming the U.S. maintains its 30 percent tax credit on system costs, which is set to expire that same year.

Even if the tax credit drops to 10 percent, solar will soon reach price parity with conventional electricity in well over half the nation: 36 states. Gone are the days when solar panels were an exotic plaything of Earth-loving rich people. Solar is becoming mainstream, and prices will continue to drop as the technology improves and financing becomes more affordable, according to the report.

The graph shows blue bars for net solar savings per kilowatt hour of electricity in each state.

In the detail below you can see that Georgia, Alabama, and Florida show positive 1 to two cents per KwH by 2016, which means they’re all probably already net positive right now at the end of 2014. And that’s with a federal tax credit of 10%, rather than the current 30%.

600x518 Georgia, Alabama, Florida already net solar positive, in Georgia solar breakeven, by John S. Quarterman, 30 November 2014

Here’s the best graph from that article:

Source: EIA, CIA, World Bank, Bernstein analysis

The rapid plunge of solar prices is rightly terrifying to electric utilities and fossil fuel companies, as their cozy century-long baseload-capacity business models are already being disrupted by distributed solar power and their nuclear and fracking glut LNG export boondoggles are being exposed to sunlight.

The rest of us see a sunny day, with lower electric bills, true energy independence, and jobs right here where we need them. Let the fossilized grip of the utilities melt from our political system as the sun rises!

The Bloomberg writer tries to project solar growth forward:

Solar will be the world’s biggest single source of electricity by 2050, according to a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency.

2050 is way too pessimistic. Solar deployment continues on track to meet former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff’s prediction last year that solar will overtake everything within a decade, to produce more power than any other U.S. energy source. That would be by 2024.

And it’s not just the U.S. Less developed countries are likely to ramp up solar even faster, from Bangladesh for connecting places with no electricity at all to China with the biggest renewable energy investment in the world and a new climate change deal with the U.S. to back it up.

Then the Bloomberg writer misinterprets the evidence before his very eyes:

Currently, it’s responsible for just a fraction of one percent.

Because of solar’s small market share today, no matter how quickly capacity expands, it won’t have much immediate impact on the price of other forms of energy.

Let’s use Wellinghoff’s analogy:

“If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute”, Wellinghoff said, “a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.”

It’s not like we haven’t all seen this before, and recently: computers, the Internet, smartphone, tablets. Many of us now have in our pockets a supercomputer faster than could fit in a room a decade ago. Solar power will win like the Internet did, and for many of the same reasons.

Remember four years ago when Arizona State University said Georgia ranked #3 among states that could benefit most from solar power? Well, that’s still true: for local use to lower bills and shut down coal plants without any need for new nukes or fracked methane “natural” gas, and for solar electricity export to other states, generating local jobs both ways.

The sun is rising on Georgia, the southeast, the U.S., and the world.